This year I had a great opportunity to coach a championship lacrosse team. I coached for Orem High where my brother Dave is caption of the defense. I actually didn't start coaching at the beggining of the year. I went to his first couple home games and sat on the sideline and cheered and tried not to give too much advice. After a few games the team was having a losing season again. My mom told me that my brother had never been on a team with a winning season. It was then that I decided to try and help out with the team.
My brother Pete was helping coach the defense, and my speciallty was in offense and face-offs, so I decided to see if I could help the offensive players. I started going to practice and the games. I focused on the three attack players and the face-off specialist. I spent quite a bit of time figuring out the strengths of each of these players. I then felt that I understood each of them well enough to help them become better. So I went to work.
During the next few games I had several frustrations with the team, but I also had several victories. I was able to make comments that I felt really made a difference and helped the offensense score more goals. The team started to improve quite a bit, but I still felt that they were missing something. Then for the last regular season game they played an undefeated team. I thought they stood a chance at winning, but it was going to be rough. I was out of town for the game so I didn't see it, but Orem won 18-6. I was shocked. When I came back and went to practice the attitude had changed. They no longer were just there to win a couple of games, they wanted so much more. I wasn't sure how deep there commitment was yet. Then a seemingly insignificant thing happened that I think showed quite a bit.
The coach was announcing at practice which players had been voted all conference. He started by saying that there was one disappointment. He said that since there were so many players from our team that won he thinks that made so one player didn't make it. He said that my brother dave missed it by one vote. My brother promptly responded that it doesn't matter. He said, "Just take state. Just win state, that is all I need. I don't need any recognition, just win state." The thing that surprised me so much is that he meant it. He really didn't need anyone to tell him he was good, he was so focused on the team winning state that personal regonition didn't matter at all. It was then that I realized that my brother was so focused on winning the state championship that I knew if that attitude would spread to enough of the team then they could do it.
I soon found that it seemed that most of the starting players seemed to have caught some of this attitude. (I am not saying that it started with Dave, there were definetly a couple of other players that I thought had developed this attitude earlier in the season just as my brother had.) Soon most of the team was on fire. The tournament started with an easy game, but the team took it seriuosly and had a blowout victory. The next game was a tough one, but was well fought and won. Then came the team that Orem had previously beat 18-6. It wasn't as easy this time, but the team pulled out a 7-5 victory to put them into the championship game.
Then came time for the championship game. My brother was so focused. He worked so hard and went over and over in his mind how the defense was going to play. He made sure he set a good example for the defense and then he made encouraging and helpful comments to help his teammates improve. All season long he took personal responsibility for ever point that scored on his defense. Yet every time the defense played well he was quick with praise for his fellow teammates and for my brother Pete the coach of the defense. It was so great to see my youngest brother become a great leader. He was someone who could lead his team to a victory. He was someone who was focused enough that I believed that it could happen.
The championship game started out the same way every game started, with the other team scoring first. I was definitely nervous, but I trusted my guys on offense and I knew my brother Dave was going to make sure the defense held their end of the field. I reviewed with each player on the offensive end what their job was and how they would score. Then it happened. We scored. Then we scored again, and again. I usually don't cheer at sporting events, but I was screaming from the coaches box every time we scored. I needed my guys to know that they were playing it perfect. Each one of them was doing their job. At the half the score was 9-2 for Orem High. I walked around and gave encouragement to the whole team, because they were all playing so well. They pulled through to the end of the game winning 15-9.
When the final whistle blew and the team stormed the field along with a mass of fans I had such an incredible feeling. They had done it. There had been some mistakes along the way, but that day Orem High showed that they had the best lacrosse team in the state. It felt so good to be a part of that amazing experience. The energy from the crowd was so incredible. The celebration that followed was as diverse as it was powerful. Some yelled at the top of their lungs (my bro Dave) some had huge smiles on their faces, others were very teary eyed. Whatever the method of celebrating the victory the message was the same--"We did it!"
That is a day that I will not soon forget. Nor will I forget the countless practices that my brother worked his hardest and encouraged others to do the same. I will always remember how several people on the team stepped up and decided that this year was their year. It was great to see so many people grow so much this year on that team. I especially will always remember my brother Dave. This was not just the year that he became a state champion, this was the year that he became a great leader. I hope he can continue to be a great leader throughout the rest of his life. Dave--congratulations, I am so proud of you.